Gau-wi-di-ne and Go-hay
- Haudenosaunee -
The snow mountain lifted its head close the sky; the clouds wrapped around it their floating drifts which held the winter's hail and snowfalls, and with scorn it defied the sunlight which crept over its height, slow and shivering on its way to the valleys.
Close at the foot of the mountain an old man had built a temporary lodge - "for a time", he said, as he packed it around with great blocks of ice. Within he stored piles of wood, corn, dried meat and fish. No person, animal or bird could enter this lodge, only North Wind, the only friend the old man had. Whenever strong and lusty North Wind passed the lodge he would shriek, "Ugh-eeeeeeee! Ugh-eeeeeeee! Ugh-eeeeee!" as with a blast of his blustering breath he blew open the door and, entering, would light his pipe and sit close by the old man's fire and rest from his wanderings over the earth.
But North Wind came only seldom to the lodge. He was too busy searching the corners of the earth and driving the snows and the hail, but when he had wandered far and was in need of advice he would visit the lodge to smoke and counsel with the old man about the next snowfall before journeying to his home in the north sky ... and they would sit by the fire which blazed and glowed yet could not warm them.
The old man's bushy whiskers were heavy with the icicles which clung to them, and when the blazing fire flared its lights, illuminating them with the warm hues of the summer sunset, he would rave as he struck them down, and glare with rage as they fell snapping and crackling at his feet.
One night, as they sat together smoking and dozing before the fire, a strange feeling of fear came over them; the air seemed to be growing warmer and the ice began to melt. Said North wind, "I wonder what warm thing is coming; the snow seems to be vanishing, sinking lower into the earth." But the old man cared not and was silent. He knew his lodge was strong, and he chuckled with scorn as he bade North Wind abandon his fears and depart for his home. And North Wind went, drifting the fast-falling snow higher on the mountain until it groaned under its heavy burden and, scolding and blasting, his voice gradually died away. Still the old man remained silent and moved not and, lost in thought, sat looking into the fire. Suddenly there came a loud knock at his door, "Some foolish breath of North Wind is still wandering," he thought, and he heeded it not.
Again came the knocking, louder still, and a pleading voice begged to come in.
Still the old man remained silent and, drawing nearer to the fire quieted himself for sleep. But the rapping continued, louder, fiercer, and he became angrier. "Who dares approach the door of my lodge?" he called. "You are not North Wind, the only one who can enter here. Begone! No refuge here for trifling winds. Go back to your home in the sky!" But as he spoke, the strong bar securing the door fell from its fastening and the door swung open. A stalwart young warrior, straight, tall and handsome, stood before him, shaking the snow from his shoulders as he quietly closed the door.
Once within the lodge, the warrior did not heed the old man's anger and, with a friendly greeting, drew near the fire, extended his hands to its ruddy blaze. A glow as of summer lit the lodge up, but the kindly greeting and warm glow of light served only to make the old man angrier still and, rising, he ordered the young warrior to leave.
"Go!" he exclaimed. "I know you not. You have entered my lodge bringing a strange light. Why have you forced entry here? You are young, and youth has no need of the fire's warmth. When I enter my lodge, all the earth sleeps. You are strong, with the glow of sunshine on your face. Long ago I buried the sun beneath the snowdrifts. Go! You have no place here!
"Your eyes bear the gleam of the summer stars ... North Wind blew out the summer starlight many moons ago. Your eyes dazzle my lodge; your breath does not smoke in chill vapors but come from your lips soft and warm - it will melt my lodge. You have no place here! Go!
"Your hair, so soft and fine, streaming back from your face like a summer breeze, will weave its tresses into my lodge. Go now! You have no place here!
"Your shoulders are bare; you have no no furs to cover them and neither do you have need of them. Depart from my lodge! See, as you sit by my fire, how it draws away from you. Depart, I say, from this place ... go back to whence you came!"
But the young warrior only smiled and asked that he might remain to fill his pipe, and they sat down by the fire where the old man became garrulous and began to boast of his great powers.
"I am powerful and strong," said he. "I send North Wind to blow all over the earth, and the waters everywhere stop to listen to his voice as he freezes them so they sleep. When I touch the sky, the snow comes down ... the hunters stay home by the lodge fires and the animals stay warm and asleep in their caves. When I put my hand on the land, I harden it, making it still as the rocks - nothing can forbid me or loosen my hold. You, young warrior, though you shine like the Sun, you have no power. Go! I give you a chance to escape me while you still may ... I could easily blow my breath upon you and fold around you a mist which would turn you to ice forever!
"I am not a friend to the Sun, who pales, grows cold and flees to the south land when I come - yet I see his glance in y our face, where no winter shadows hide. My North Wind will soon return ... he hates the summer and will bind fast its hands.
"I see that you have no fear of me ... you smile because you know me not. Listen to me, young man ... I am Gau-wi-di-ne, winter! Now fear me and go ... leave my lodge and go out to the wind."
But the young warrior moved not, only smiled as he refilled the pipe for the trembling old man, saying, "Here, take your pipe; it will soothe you and give you strength a little while longer." And he packed the o-yan-kwa deep and hard into the pipe.
Then the young warrior said, "Now you must smoke for me ... smoke for youth and for the springtime! I have no fear of your boasting; you are old and slow; I am young and strong. I hear the voice of South Wind, and your North Wind hears too ... Gah-oh is hurrying back to his home. Wrap yourself up good and warm while the snowdrifts cover the earth path, and flee to your lodge in the north sky. I am here now and you shall know me. I too am powerful!
"When I lift my hand, the sky opens wide and I waken the sleeping Sun which follows me, warm and glad. I touch the earth and it grows soft and gentle and breathes strong and swift as my South Wind ploughs under the snows to loosen your hold on the land. The forests welcome my voice - the trees bud to the touch of my hand. When my breezes blow my long hair to the clouds, they send down gentle showers that call the grasses from their sleeping places under the earth.
"I came not to tarry long in my peace talk with you, but to smoke with you, and let you know that the Sun is waiting for me to open the way for him to enter here. You and North Wind have built your lodge strong, but each wind - the North, East, West and the South - has its time for the earth. Now South Wind is calling me - it is her time. And it is your time to return to your big lodge in the sky. Travel swiftly on your way that you may not fall in the path of the Sun. See how even now it is sending down arrows that will weaken you, kill you, if you wait?"
The old man saw, and he trembled. He seemed to be fading, growing too weak to speak, and could only whisper, "Young warrior, who are you?"
In a voice that breathed soft as the breath of wild blossoms, he answered: "I am Go-hay - spring. I have come to rule and my lodge now covers the earth. I have talked to your mountain and it has heard; I have called the South Wind and it is near. The sun has awoken from its winter sleep and summons me now. Your North Wind has fled to his north sky; only you are late in following. You have lingered too long over your pipe, and its smoke now floats far away. Make haste while there is still time, so that you may not lose your trail."
And Go-hay began singing the Song of the Sun as he opened the door of the lodge. Hovering above it was a great bird whose wings seemed blown by a strong wind, and while Go-hay continued to sing, it flew down to the lodge and, folding Gau-wi-di-ne to its breast, slowly winged away to the north, and when the Sun lifted its head in the east, it could see the bird disappearing in the faraway sky. The Sun glanced down where Gau-wi-di-ne had built his lodge whose fired had burned but could not warm, and a bed of young blossoms now lifted their heads to the touch of the Sun's beams. Where the wood and the corn, the dried meat and fish had been heaped, a young tree was budding and leafing, and a bluebird was trying its wings for a nest. And the great Ice Mountain had melted to a swift running river, which laughed as it rushed through the valley, bearing its message of the coming of springtime.
Gau-wi-di-ne had passed his time; Go-hay now reined over the earth!
Return to Table of Contents